Letter from Palo Alto

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There’s a pile of money buried in here… somewhere…

Ken Krushel and I are out here in Palo Alto this week trying to raise financing for CTZN.TV.

We have spent the past two days meeting with some of the biggest and best know VC groups in the country on Sandhill Road. The people who funded Google and Apple and Yahoo, among a host of others. It is a fascinating experience as they are all wicked smart (and they have great conference rooms with wall sized monitors). Connectivity is never an issue.

The more we do this, the more I think about CTZN and also about the news business in general.

The web is going to change news a lot. Probably more than we think. But here’s an early insight, for what it is worth:

News, until now, has been about broadcasting – one message delivered to lots of people. Whether that message came from broadcast television, cable or even from newspapers or radio is immaterial, the model was the same.

But the model for the web is not about one message to lots of people – it is about many people talking with and interacting with many other people. Ebay or Google or Jdate for that matter.

As news moves into this realm, the initial first reaction will be to replicate the old way of doing things on this new platform, ie, ‘now y0u can watch CNN any time you want’.

But this ‘watching’ does not begin to fully leverage off of what the web does best which is build communities that can interact.

So maybe we have to rethink the basic premise of broadcast news.

Maybe what we should be building is a kind of interactive community; a place where we can conduct public discourse and discuss important issues… in public. And the job of the news organizations? To raise the issues and to provide the facts.

Its an interesting approach.

All of the VCs both here and NY want to see video samples. In a way they’re looking for that exciting piece of video – The Michael Richards tape, or something from Iraq.

But ‘news’ is about a lot more than the ‘breaking’ story. In fact it is mostly not about the breaking story at all.

Were we to be 150 years ago meeting with VCs and trying to raise money for something called ‘The New York Times’ – a ‘newspaper’ (new concept), we might have been asked to put together a dummy issue.

Well, this lead story about Congress and The White House at loggerheads over executive power is pretty boring. And what the heck is this ‘Maureen Dowd’ piece. Where is the excitement? Where are the sexy stories? I dont’ think we can fund this, I don’t think this will work.

Maybe our job as we move to the web is not to do the Lindsay Lohan stories.

Maybe our job is to become the locus of national debate.

2 responses to “Letter from Palo Alto

  1. It’s a pathetic statement of affairs on the citizens of this country who are more concerned about Lindsay Lohan’s arrest than to cover a worthwhile news event. I find the news media’s lack of discernment over quality news for the sake of ratings disgusting.

    If all the news orgs quit broadcasting all at once I don’t think would be a bad thing. The sheeple of this country probably wouldn’t even miss them since they would go online to find their information – and that is what I think scares the traditional news outlets. Detractors can can try to refute all they want – the very fact that CNN tried to use youtube for the presidential debates only shows just how concerned they are about the Internet and it’s impact on their bottom line.

    Watching Kouric, Williams, Hume and the rest of the so called professional crew for more than a few seconds is a laughable occasion – they ask simplistic, obvious questions to their so called hard hitting news reports. Asking the hard questions by the likes of Keith Olberman and Chris Matthews – IMO, these are true journalists – they aren’t afraid of making people uncomfortable – they ask the th0ugh questions to get answers that people should be interested in.

    Off of soapbox now…

  2. Ken,

    Best of luck in your new venture.

    Kevin

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